Flood tides cover higher portions of the salt marsh less frequently, and for shorter periods of time. On this better-drained ground, saltmarsh cordgrass gives way to its close cousin, saltmeadow hay.
The Worth of the Marsh
Starkly beautiful, the unspoiled salt marsh affords us aesthetic and spiritual pleasure. More practically, it acts as a storm buffer and as a giant filter that helps absorb chemical wastes of our civilization before they reach the sea.
The salt marsh is also of inestimable value as a nursery and kitchen—the place where a host of species of shellfish, fish, and waterfowl, many of commercial importance, come to breed and feed.
Our Threatened Marshes
Salt marshes are under siege. Many are being poisoned with chemical pollutants. Others are subjected to dredging, diking, ditching, draining, dumping, and “development.”
Like all wetlands, however, salt marshes are precious environments that deserve protection from such destructive and short-sighted activities.
Marsh Elder Scientific Name: Iva frutescens
The marsh elder’s greenish flowers appear in late summer, in drooping heads. It is sometimes called “highwater bush,” from its characteristic situation of growing on natural islands of high ground in the marsh, as well as along ditches, atop dikes, and wherever excavated soil has been piled. Size: 12 ft. (3.6 m)
Winterberry Holly Scientific Name: Ilex verticellata
This non-evergreen shrub is one of our native hollies. Its tiny white flowers ripen into clusters of handsome red berries that are very attractive to birds through the fall and winter. As with most Ilex, individual plants bear either male or female flowers. Size: 15 ft. (4.5 m)
Saltmeadow Hay Scientific Name: Spartina patens
The swirling growth of this grass, more delicate than other cord grasses, marks the higher zone of the saltmarsh where inundation by salt water is less frequent and drainage is better. Settlers of coastal regions discovered quickly the value of saltmeadow hay as fodder and often grazed their livestock in the high marsh. Size: 12 to 40 in. (38 cm)
Seaside Goldenrod Scientific Name: Solidago sempervirens
The bright yellow sprays that goldenrod puts forth in fall are easily identified. This innocent plant is frequently blamed by the allergy prone, since it blooms at the same time the allergenic pollen is being loosed from the inconspicuous green flowers of
the ragweed. Size: 8 ft. (2.4 m)